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What is this COVID payroll tax deferral all about?

by | Sep 21, 2020 | Business Law

COVID-19 has been a disaster for not just individuals, but for employers as well.  The struggle to continue running your business and keep your employees paid all while many of your customers have lost their jobs and slowed down their spending has been a real disaster for many small businesses.  While the stimulus check provided some relief to individuals and the SBA relief helped small businesses try to keep their employees during this troublesome time.  The real concern is that if there is not enough money being spent (with many people opting to save what they have to be prepared if round 2 of the pandemic comes around), then small businesses will continue to suffer and end up hurting those that are working as a result of layoffs. While it is hard for an employer to even think about offering an employee a raise during this time, something had to be done.

President Trump signed several orders in August to address the negative effects of COVID-19 on the United States economy.  One of the orders offers a deferral of the employee-side of their payroll tax obligations.  This gives an employer the opportunity to refrain from withholding the employee’s portion of Social Security tax.  The government has brought about several different relief laws but some are confusing and can be hard to figure out if they apply to your situation.  Let us discuss whether this is helpful or more trouble than it is worth.

The Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES” for short), gave business owners the opportunity to defer the employer’s share of payroll tax as of March 2020.  This new August order merely allows businesses to defer collection of the employee’s share of payroll taxes as well. A deferral does not “forgive” those taxes not being withheld, it merely delays the payment until a later time (hopefully after COVID-19 is over!).

Does this benefit me?

The short answer is it affects both employees and employers.  The IRS provided us with some insight on Notice 2020-65 that advises that employers have the OPTION to offer the deferral to employees that make less than $4,000 biweekly during the deferral period of September 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.  After the deferral period ends, employees would then have to repay from their paychecks in January through the end of April these taxes…essentially meaning that they’d be paying double taxes during the beginning of 2021, significantly reducing their Q1 paychecks.  The big issue is that the EMPLOYER has the responsibility to ensure that these deferred payments are made.

So what if an employee quits or is fired before the money is repaid?

The employer is still on the hook to recoup those funds through payroll or some other method.  The responsibility is 100% on the employer to make sure the government is paid the taxes owed.  “Some other method” could be dangerous…Does that mean you would have to file a lawsuit against a past employee if they did not pay it back?  Think of the legal fees or PR mess that could come from that. I could imagine many employers just deciding to pay it themselves to avoid going down that path.

Who can help me decide if this opportunity is good or bad for me?

It can be overwhelming trying to keep up with all the laws, policies and regulations being enacted by the government in response to COVID-19.  How can you take advantage of these opportunities when they are so hard to navigate?   The answer is simple, contact a professional to discuss and make an informed decision.

As an employee, you will want to speak with an accountant to discuss whether or not this order will impact you financially.  If you are local, I recommend contacting J. Gleason Associates  in Pottstown at 610-850-9036. J. Gleason Associates prepare individual and business taxes, payroll preparation, bookkeeping, QuickBooks Training and more and are a local small business in the Pottstown area.  They offer free consultations, so do not be afraid to call!

As an employer, you have the option to offer this tax deferral, but I would strongly suggest speaking with myself or one of the other attorneys at RICK LAW to ensure you have fully considered the benefits and consequences of this decision as well as any other business decision that may come up.  We can assist with other COVID-specific rules and regulations as well so that you can navigate employee layoffs and returning to work, lease and rent deferrals, contract negotiations and mask policies among other things.

 This article contains general information and should not be considered legal advice. The only legal advice we offer is during a consultation or representation.  While reading this blog is the first step in making a decision, nothing replaces speaking directly with an attorney. Laws change often and you can’t depend on this blog being “current” beyond the date moment it was originally posted. For legal advice, contact Charles Rick at Rick Law by calling 610-850-9036 or filling out the online contact form.